Day Trip To Balloch and Dumbarton: Pt 2 – Dumbarton

After Balloch and our cruise around Loch Lomond, we stopped in the town of Dumbarton not far away, to explore…


Status: West Dunbartonshire, Town, Scotland

Date: 07/04/2013

Travel: Virgin Trains (Carlisle – Glasgow Central), Scotrail (Glasgow Queen Street – Balloch, via Dumbarton)

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: Municipal Building, Dumbarton Rock, Dumbarton Castle, Scottish Maritime Museum, Wallace Tower, Portcullis Arch, St Mary’s Arch etc


There are three train stations in the town, but we used Dumbarton Central, which is in the town centre. From the train station, we found some interesting old buildings, and then we found the above building, which is the Municipal Building in the town. It houses West Dunbartonshire Council and registrar services. It’s a great looking building, with that typical Baronial style that Scotland uses well on it’s buildings. It opened in 1903, and was designed by an architect named James Thomson.


Directly outside the Municipal Building stands a statue of Peter Denny, a notable ship builder from Dumbarton. He owned large shipyards in the town, and in 1844 he became a partner in Denny Brothers (with his brothers) which eventually became William Denny and Brothers Limited.


In the grounds of the same building, round the right side, there is an arch, which is actually the second oldest structure in the whole town. The old stone arch is part of St Mary’s Collegiate Church which once incorporated it from 1450. This isn’t its original position, as it has been moved a few times, first when the railway was built in 1850 and then in 1907 to where it stands today.


We moved on, and started walking down to the riverside, and on the way we spotted two churches. The first of these is just a shell, and is called the Burgh Hall, and at the back is a newer hall where the members of the Rock Community Church meet. The building is currently in scaffolding but back in the day it must have looked fantastic. We are unsure what the plans for the building are but I am sure it will be restored. I do know that it was built in 1865, and destroyed by a fire in 1976, despite the best efforts of local fire-fighters.


On one of the high streets, the spire of a building known as the Bell Centre rises up above the shops. The Bell Centre is a former church, hence the spire.


We reached the riverside, and were once again stood next to the river Leven, which has come all the way from Loch Lomond to this point, where it empties out into the estuary of the river Clyde.


At the edge of the river, a large rock juts out, and is known as Dumbarton Rock. It houses Dumbarton Castle, the oldest part of the town. It’s major claim to fame is that it has the longest recorded history of any structure on the island of Great Britain. You can’t really see the castle buildings from this angle, but a lot of them are clustered around the bottom, and you ascend the rock to the rest.

Earliest records go back to at least the 5th century. Today, there are a few surviving buildings from the 14th century, including the Portcullis Arch, the Wallace Tower and part of the foundations for the White Tower. From the 16th century there is a guard house, and one of the walls is the face of Sir John de Menteith (1275 – 1323), who supposedly betrayed William Wallace.

After Oliver Cromwell died in 1658, the castle was no longer seen as important, but after the Jacobites and the French posed a threat it was reinforced until the start of World War I.

Dumbarton is a pleasant town with lots of old buildings, and it’s well known for for ship building and distilleries that once made whisky. The town is also home to the Scottish Maritime Museum, Dumbarton. There is another branch of the museum in Irvine. Find out more here. Trains to Balloch run through the town, as well as trains bound for Helensburgh, as well as back to Glasgow Queen Street.


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